Chief Information Officer

Ronald W. Hovsepian, President & CEO, Intralinks, on the company’s new product designed for secure enterprise collaboration, Intralinks VIATM

JASON REDLUS:  Why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and your background before you came to Intralinks?

RONALD HOVSEPIAN:  I spent just under 17 years at IBM in a variety of roles, from sales, to marketing and development of both hardware and software, and finally services. I had a wonderful, well-rounded experience at IBM. From there, I went to the venture capital part of the industry, which gave me a great appreciation for the creativity and startup mentality that one needs to have in the technology business. After that, I ran Novell, a billion-dollar enterprise software company, which gave me additional experience.

How did you come to Intralinks?

It’s a small world. I happened to have a distant acquaintance with one of the board members, and one day that person called me and asked if I’d be interested in the job. So I looked at the company, and three things really leaped out at me. One was the technology platform that the team had built, which showed a lot of innovation. Two, I felt the company had an opportunity to address some of the broader customer needs in a very controlled and compliant manner. And three, I saw that the company had grown very nicely but that growth had slowed, and I saw an opportunity for the next level of growth. I felt that I had the right skill set to help the company grow to that next level.

What does Intralinks do?

Intralinks is a technology provider of beyond-the-firewall collaboration solutions. Over 800 of the global Fortune 1000 use Intralinks to securely share content and collaborate with business partners and customers. We got our start 16 years ago when we created the first virtual data rooms, used to support the complex and highly regulated process of managing strategic financial transactions. Over the years Intralinks solutions have been used to support over $19 trillion in transactions involving over a billion documents.

In its simplest form, our service allows companies to share information in a highly controlled, compliant way. Companies can share information with outside business partners in a controlled manner that allows them to monitor who has seen the information, how long they have looked at it, and what they did with it. The company manages the rights, permissions and controls of that information. Businesses can ultimately use that information in a workflow. We do this extremely well.

What are some examples that illustrate that?

As I mentioned earlier, banks frequently share very sensitive client data and other data for bidding purposes, such as hedging, or when they’re putting together loan syndications. Intralinks allows those banks to put all of that data together in a common platform and permit multiple people to access that data from a controlled point of view.

The life sciences or pharmaceuticals industry is another good example because of the drug trials that a pharma company has to go through. In these trials, they have to coordinate and manage access for many people in a very controlled manner, including the investigator running the clinical trial who needs to upload patient files, all of the doctors involved, the chemical company that produces the compound, various people within their company who designed the drug, and the federal regulators. All of these people need access to information and the ability to input new information in a very organized, documented manner with various levels of control, or else the trial has to start all over again. That can mean another three-year delay before the drug is approved. So our product is critical for companies who need to share sensitive data beyond the firewall.

In all industries, we’re seeing more and more that information needs to be shared beyond a business’s four walls. But while most systems have been designed to protect data from coming in, they’re not designed to manage information in that broader manner.

I noticed that you’ve augmented your portfolio recently with some new acquisitions. Can you talk a little bit about those recent announcements?

Yes, I can. Advisors and anybody who advises clients on acquisitions are  tasked with helping their clients sell or augment the size of their companies, and there are a lot of medium-sized firms around the globe that are looking to grow. However, those firms don’t always know how to grow. For example, a toy manufacturer in Australia might want to buy a toy manufacturer in Latin America to get a footprint in that region, but they don’t know how to initiate that relationship.

To solve these problems, we’ve acquired two companies, PE-Nexus in the U.S. and MergerID in Europe, and are in the process of combining them to create the largest company for advisors to use as a tool for deal sourcing. So, whether you’re an advisor for a toy company in Australia or a cement company in Southeast Asia, you can go online and use this advisory service to help your clients. It will allow transactions to occur faster in the marketplace and allow advisors to more effectively manage their relationships. With these acquisitions, Intralinks now offers a unique end-to-end solution for managing the full lifecycle of strategic transactions, from deal preparation, marketing and sourcing through to due diligence and execution. We think that’s critical for success in that marketplace in the long run.

There has been a lot of buzz around the work you’re doing in your partnerships with CIOs and CISOs. Can you talk a little bit about what you’re doing there? What are the parallels between those two offices, and what are some of the unique opportunities presented in working with those leaders?

We have. When I joined Intralinks I saw an opportunity to apply our technology and expertise to address a growing problem for enterprise CIOs and CISOs – the need to securely manage their information outside-the-firewall. Most organizations need to share and collaborate with partners, customers and suppliers on a regular basis, but they struggle to do this in an efficient and controlled way. Many use email or FTP, or have brought consumer-grade file sharing apps into their company, exposing themselves to security risks. I saw an opportunity to address this issue.

So we stepped back and did some market research on where our customers are going and what issues they’re facing. We surveyed 652 business and IT leaders and followed that up with a series of direct interviews with around 70 of those leaders to get very specific details about what was needed in the market. Through that, we were able to identify five categories of client needs that were shifting in the technology market regarding how they share information outside of their enterprise. First, our clients want technology that is extremely secure and allows them to have full control over their information at all times, no matter where it travels. Second, they want more control from an IT perspective. Third, they want ease-of-use so that their end users will be able to comfortably and easily collaborate outside their company and create ad hoc work streams. Fourth, IT in particular needs better management tools so they understand where information is traveling, who has access, and so on. And fifth, our clients want better connections to their current internal enterprise systems.

It was this research that led us to develop our new product Intralinks VIA. What was really fascinating about our research was the amount of people who communicated that they really need to share information in order to get work done. There has been a lot of talk about file-sharing opportunities in the marketplace today, but our new product, Intralinks VIA, is unique in that it not only allows companies to share their information in a file-sharing format but to do so in a controlled manner within a work stream outside of the enterprise.

I think it’s important for CIOs and CISOs to understand that you really have to think holistically beyond the firewall, rather than trying to attack it in pieces—everything from data location right through to the concepts of work streams and the chain of custody for documents and content.

That issue has continued to be a topic of discussion, particularly regarding which devices people are going to use to access this information. It’s essentially becoming BYOC—bring your own collaboration. What’s driving this trend?

The consumerization of IT is having profound effects. It’s routine now for employees to use multiple consumer platforms to do work, and increasingly this means that they’re co-opting their personal DropBox account or Google Drive to share business information.

We factored this in when we designed Intralinks VIA. We knew that we needed a solution that was intuitive and easy to us. For example, a native feature built into the iPad framework is the ability to switch between screens by flipping your hand to the right or left. Because customers are used to that framework, we have to think about how our applications operate within that native toolset and adapt accordingly. Our research communicated the necessity of that loud and clear. As a matter of fact, our market research shows that over 90 percent of our customers wanted us to make sure that the Intralinks VIA product was driven by the native tools on various platforms—IOS platform, Android and Windows. So we did the extra work to make sure that our software operates on those devices in the way that our consumers are used to using them.

So, BYOC could also mean “bring your own consumer” because of the consumer collaborative phenomenon happening in the technology market. Fortunately, IT doesn’t have to worry about that problem anymore. We’re addressing that for them on whatever device they choose.

Is this related to the concept of UNsharing? How does that come into the mix?

Yes, that was part of the research. When we talked to consumers, they asked for something very simple: “Give me control.” We kept coming back to a conversation about wanting to share information with an outside colleague and then being able to take that information back after the work stream is completed.

So we’ve come up with the technology to do that. We call it UNsharing, and it exists within the Intralinks VIA product in two dimensions. First, you can place a timed expiration date on that information, which means that the other user has the right to access it for, say, 30 days, and after that, the user can no longer access the encrypted file. We also have a self-shredding feature installed as well, just to make sure that the information is securely removed from that device.

Secondly, we offer the ability to revoke the permissions to that encrypted file at any time. This is important. Whether we care to admit it or not, we’ve all sent the wrong file to the wrong person, and wished we’d had the ability to somehow get that file back. Now, you can.

UN Share

Every once in a while, you read about how the amount of data generated by an organization is tripling and quadrupling. Are organizations seeing a greater outflow of information as the amount of data continues to increase?

Absolutely, and as I’ve mentioned before, the issue with that is that most architectures were built to protect what comes into the datasets and content but not the other way around. That’s why UNshare is so exciting—when I download that technology on my iPad, I’m synchronizing that device with my iPhone and PC. So there are technically three copies of that encrypted file on all three devices. When I’m done sharing that information, I can easily make sure that I pull all of that information off those devices. That’s where we’ve seen the largest upticks in usage.

Is there anything I didn’t ask that you think is important to share?

One exciting piece of news is that we are getting ready to publicly announce our first beta customer, the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes F1 team. As you can imagine, an F1 racing team has a lot of proprietary data and trade secrets that they’re constantly working to protect in order to maintain their edge because it’s so tenuous in their industry. In our discussions with them, they shared some of the challenges they face regarding collaborations outside their firewall and their need to audit and track all of the pieces that go out. Most importantly, they need to be able to UNshare information when they’re done with a particular partner. That was critical for them. So they selected us to be a key partner in sharing their intellectual property, and we’re very excited about working with them.

I’d also encourage people to try Intralinks VIA, which is available as a free download at


Ronald Hovsepian:
Ronald W. Hovsepian was appointed president, chief executive officer and director of Intralinks in December 2011.

Previously, Mr. Hovsepian served as president and chief executive officer of Novell, Inc., from 2005 to 2011. He joined Novell in 2003 as executive vice president and president, worldwide field operations. Prior to his time at Novell, Mr. Hovsepian was a Managing Director with Bear Stearns Asset Management, a technology venture capital fund, from February to December 2002. From March 2000 to February 2002, Mr. Hovsepian served as Managing Director for Internet Capital Group, a venture capital firm. He started his career at IBM and served in a number of executive positions over approximately a 17-year period. Mr. Hovsepian is currently Chairman of the Board of Directors of ANN Inc. and is a member of the Board of Directors of ANSYS, Inc.  Mr. Hovsepian received a Bachelor of Science degree from Boston College.

Jason Redlus:
Jason is Argyle Executive Forum’s managing member and founder. Argyle Executive Forum is a professional services firm that convenes and connects business leaders from highly targeted business-to-business communities for strategic collaboration and business development.

Over 40,000 executives participate in one or several of Argyle Executive Forum’s communities, with over 700 new members joining every month. Prior to forming Argyle Executive Forum, Jason launched the private-equity business effort for Capital IQ. Capital IQ was acquired by Standard & Poor’s in 2004. Prior to Capital IQ, Jason was an investment banker, focused on middle-market M&A and LBO transactions. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Visit Argyle Executive Forum's CIO/CMO DINNER: Closing the Gap Between IT and Marketing to Get Superior Actionable Customer Insights- New York in New York, NY on Jan 29, 2020

right arrow icon

Next Article:
Four Steps to Social Awareness: Russell Zwanka, CEO and Partner, Triple Eight Marketing, LLC